Being unemployed places some pretty severe restrictions on eating out. The local chippy does a 2-4-1 deal which we've used a couple of times, but anything you might consider gastronomy is well out of reach. So I was over the moon when my Mum decided to take us out for lunch when we went to visit.
The venue was the Pony & Trap which has just received a Michelin star. The pub is in a small hamlet a couple of miles from Chew Magna. The setting is great, with views across a valley of well groomed farmland. Inside, the owners have retained the look of a proper pub but also provide a marginally smarter dining room out the back, which makes the most of the views. It had been a long time since we'd been sat in such a nice place for a meal.
If I'm honest, the starters on offer were not particularly enticing. A couple of soups, a pate and a terrine, a salad and moules marniere. Nothing you wouldn't see on a good pub menu really. Perhaps that was the point. This was still pub grub, but very, very good pub grub.
I went for the Duck Liver Parfait with Smoked Duck Breast, Red Onion Jam and Toast. It came with some tiny cornichons that packed a piquant punch and a sliver of pickled carrot. The serving was generous, almost too generous really. The toast was two thick slices of farmhouse white rather than melba toast, which felt like a lot of bread for a starter. Having said that the contemporary and slightly pretentious black slate went back clean (is there any need to serve food on anything other than a plate?). Although I did give my smoked duck away - it was far too smokey and not nearly ducky enough.
Others in the party went for the same starter and we were all complementary and satisfied. My missus chose the Spicy Spider Crab Soup, displaying a clear yearning for our days of travelling in South-east Asia. It was a very nice soup, if unspectacular.
Mains, however, were a different matter.
I had Char-Grilled Pigeon Breast with Braised Pig Cheek, Puy Lentils, Cauliflower Puree and Caramelised Red Onion (which looked suspiciously like the Red Onion Jam of the starter). Fantastic. Rich and deep, with each flavour complementing the other. The star of the show was the pig cheek. I only wish the portion had been as generous as my starter.
Others in our party chose steak and were, understandably, very happy with their choices. A professional kitchen can produce the perfect temperatures for cooking and so can properly sear a steak to give it a crisp, nutty crust while retaining enough moisture to keep the middle soft, moist and pink. The chips were good as well.
My partner opted for the Cornish Cod with Pine Nut & Herb Crumb and Saffron Cream Sauce with clams. I love clams and was lucky enough to get a taste of one which was deliciously sweet. The cod was generously portioned and the cream sauce was well balanced and not at all cloying.
It was such a welcome treat to go out for such a nice meal. And one which will provide lasting enjoyment because my pigeon dish is definitely one which I'll have a go at doing at home. Although it's likely to be with just the pig cheek, or perhaps ox cheek, so that it isn't too expensive to make.
Thinking of eating out in Bristol, read more reviews of Bristol Restaurants.